Talent Acquisition steps up to the challenge

Finding the right job candidates during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many challenges at King County departments as they work to protect employees and customers from the virus while ensuring their services remain easily accessible. Continuing to recruit talented staff to fill the wide array of positions at the County, while maintaining social distancing is one of those challenges.

Alongside the Talent Acquisition team within the Department of Human Resources (DHR), many departments at King County have their own recruiting teams. As you might expect, initial outreach to candidates is typically done by phone and email. The process of interviews by hiring managers and others has been historically in-person for the most part. When mandatory telework was announced last March, it was all hands-on deck for recruiters in the various departments across King County to manage a major shift in bringing on new talent.

“Interviewers needed to ramp up quickly to get comfortable with the technology and logistics that would now dictate the online interviews they would be conducting,” stressed Jamie Robinson, Sr. Analyst in DHR who leads the process and strategy for King County Talent Acquisition.

Jamie and her colleagues are involved in the development and distribution of recruiting tools and training for King County departments, flexing to provide guidance and support for those who converted to virtual recruiting.

Technology would be the answer and, fortunately, the NEOGOV recruiting system was already in place. Recruiters were accustomed to using it as a tool to house candidate resumes, interview schedules, and track recruitment steps. But there would need to be some training to get Human Resource practitioners, subject matter experts, interviewers, and hiring managers accustomed to the additional functions that could be used to streamline and digitize a formerly paper-heavy process. 

The big lift came when the team needed to convert the New Employee Orientation — normally held in person — to completely online. This would take a concerted effort working with several teams in DHR.  The NEOGOV system was equipped for onboarding and the team quickly got to work building out the processes, tools, and training to launch it in just a few days.

Some teams that were just getting started using Skype, MS Teams, and Zoom for internal meetings were finding it difficult to transition to online interviews, so the DHR team stepped in to offer assistance in a variety of spaces and provide training in using the Zoom technology for virtual interviews. Jamie stated, “No detail was too small. Things one might not think of, such as making sure the interviewer is in a quiet space or how to create a background that isn’t distracting, became part of the guidance toolkit.”

Not all recruiting steps went virtual

Just as there are many jobs in King County that cannot be performed virtually, some recruiting continues to call for in-person activities. For the Civil Service team, creating a pool of candidates for deputy sheriff openings requires some of the most intense testing and interview processes of any job in the County. One of the initial hiring elements for a deputy position is a physical test, for which there was already a national vendor in place to handle. Now that Civil Service can manage more of the initial rounds of interviewing virtually, they have a broader pool of out-of-area candidates to choose from.

Initial challenges of going virtual for this team included figuring out the logistics on how to provide interview panelists the resources they need. MS Teams was used to create a closed, confidential location for interview materials, and the team converted to using Zoom for interviews. By April last year they were able to shift most work to remote processes, but some required a hybrid approach.

Last summer the team conducted a sergeant’s promotional exam in a gymnasium to accommodate a proctored test for 100 people, on the same day, with enough space for the candidates to socially distance. Those who passed had to come in for an in-person assessment, a set of practical examinations that lasts approximately six hours per candidate. 

“I was impressed with how quickly the team adapted, and feedback from candidates has been positive,” said Brannon Mark, Interim Civil Service Administrator. Though she admits the team still deals with “virtual fatigue” from being online so much, since they’re doing eight to 11 interview days per month because the process takes longer and there’s less flexibility in scheduling.

Working with the job candidate

The Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) has been successful in transitioning its processes to a virtual experience. One of its main efforts is to ensure the interview process is fair to all, so if a candidate doesn’t have sufficient online access, they might come into the office to use a computer while the interview panel remains virtual. 

Another positive element of working virtually is being able to run everything using the NEOGOV platform from scheduling and confirmations through onboarding and training.

“It really drives efficiencies for us, especially since everyone’s calendars seem to be so full,” states Diana Eberly, Sr. Analyst in DNRP. “The next step we hope to implement is a follow-up survey to measure satisfaction from everyone – candidates, hiring managers, SMS’s and interview panelists. That will help assess how successful we’ve been.”    

Find out more about King County careers and open job opportunities at kingcounty.gov/careers.